So often, in marriage, when the husband screws up and acts, talks, or thinks in a manner that does not honor his wife, the common sense wisdom that is often offered is that there are certain things that you should not share with your wife.
I have one simple thought in response to this idea: No. Let me offer you some reasons to consider as to why this might not be the best course of action within your marriage.
1. Each secret kept from your spouse is a brick you apply mortar to and place on the wall that is being erected between you over time. Distance between spouses is rarely something that occurs in an instant; rather it is a slow, almost imperceptible commitment to withhold things from one another.
2. This kind of thinking presumes that your wife has neither the fortitude nor wisdom to think through what you have to share, and process it in a healthy manner. Let me confess that I have often embraced this kind of thinking only to be humbled to the ground by the manner in which my wife responds.
3. Transparency and vulnerability are not only essential in a healthy relationship; they serve as an important tool in humbling our deluded pride and distorted self-estimation. They also foster mutuality and evidence trust in your partner. It is impossible to truly love and know someone and receive the same in kind if they do not genuinely know you. The fear and anxiety that they might discover the things that you have withheld or hidden persists as a pernicious thorn in your marriage.
4. To engage in this sleight of hand behavior evidences a desire to control your perception of how your wife perceives you. It is fair to say that normally, one’s wife knows us better than anyone else alive. It is also fair to say that it is exceedingly important to men that their wives have a high estimation of who they are. Unfortunately, there are moments when we neither live up to who we hope to be, nor whom we think our wives perceive us to be. Let me highlight something. Your perception of who your wife perceives you to be is not the same thing as how she actually perceives you. You might be surprised at how much more clearly your wife knows you than you think she does, as well as humbly awestruck at the grace and patience she has exercised while waiting on you to become aware of things she has seen for a long time.
5. It is important that we be confronted by the manners in which we are living that do not honor our wives, our shared hopes and commitments, and even the vision of the men we hope to become. To be fair, taking an unhindered look at the stark reality of who we are today in some of our weaker moments can be both terrifying and devastating. However, apart from confronting those truths, we seek to live in a fantasy land that vitiates any real opportunity for transformation.
6. It is possible to lead by example through both our successes AND our failures. Of course, we all want to only do so according to the former. However, if you are honest, most of the wisdom you possess in life is related to the scars, disappointment, and challenge you have encountered. This requires genuine humility, surrendering your image and reputation and simply seeking to live as you are. This is often far from who we want to be, however, without bringing the real us into the light, no movement or metamorphosis can occur that will help us mature toward the kind of men we want to be.
7. At times, this withholding is rooted in a fear that it will give our wives later ammunition to reflect back on and bring up to highlight our deficiencies. Let me highlight something very important. You, I—we are all deficient as husbands. None of us has been sent by God as the perfect man to bless our wives. We are imperfect creatures seeking to lead lives that honor, uphold, and cherish the women we have committed our lives to. And yet, we are also selfish, petty, jealous, lustful, and prideful. It may be that our wives will have ammunition in the future, however, I have found that if you approach your faults with genuine contrition and sorrow for their consequences and implications and set aside the primal desire to defend or justify oneself, this is not only appreciated, but also strengthens the bonds of your relationship.
Let me express that I am not sharing this as a guru advocating how to have a successful marriage on the basis of my own perfection in doing so. If I am a guru at anything, it is in not living up to the promises that I made to my wife before God, wrestling with shame and embarrassment at not being perfect, and being humbled by the grace and patience shown to me by my wife. I am also one who can testify that transparency and vulnerability in marriage, along with the rejection of commonplace wisdom to withhold things from your spouse, has made my marriage something I cherish because I recognize that my wife is someone that I do not deserve.
I share this with you because in order for husband and wife to be one, no walls can be built up, nor can we be more focused on image maintenance than complete disclosure with our spouse. For those with Christian convictions, these things are exceedingly important to consider, if only because in the Bible marriage is given as a symbol of God’s love for humanity.
It should not be characterized by secrets hidden in the shadow, separation, image maintenance, or the overestimation of one’s own capacities at the expense of the underestimation of those of your partner.
Husbands, please have ears to hear. There is a profound witness that you can bear in the world if you simply take courage and press through your fear, entrust your reputation and image to God, and simply offer your wife all of yourself and allow her the freedom to respond.